An increasing number of letting agents have agreements with independent inventory clerks for check ins and check outs. However, not all agents, specify the standards that these clerks must meet.
Check in and check out inventories are usually compiled by a clerk on behalf of either the agent or landlord. A good check in inventory will reflect the condition of the property and where relevant the contents at the commencement of the tenancy. When a tenant is then due to vacate a property the check out inventory is carried out to establish whether the property is still in the same condition (fair wear and tear excluded) as it was at the commencement. Where there has been damage this should be reflected in the check out inventory and the landlord or agent will then use it to support their claim for a deduction from the deposit for such damage. The inventory is therefore pretty important in recovering damage done to properties and without one tenancy deposit protection services will be unlikely to make an award.
Landlords that use agents will usually expect them to arrange the inventory. Agents will then hire an inventory clerk to carry out a check in or out on their behalf or on the landlord’s behalf. Where an agent hires an inventory clerk directly (that is to do a piece of work on behalf of the agent) they need to ensure that the report is of a good standard to reduce the risk of a damages claim from the landlord. If the clerk is hired by the agent to carry out the check in or out the agent needs to ensure that it is carried out immediately prior to the tenant taking occupation, that it is presented well so that both parties have a good idea of the condition of the property and that hard copies are available at the commencement of the tenancy.
If the agent fails to ensure that the inventory is of a good standard and the landlord in turn fails to obtain compensation for damage that they would otherwise be entitled to they could turn to the agent to make good on their losses. When the agent hires the clerk directly the landlord has a legal right to pursue the agent if the clerk is negligent when preparing the inventory. For this reason, it is vital that the agent ensured that they have a contractual relationship with the clerk and that any contract specifics exactly what standard the agent expects the clerk to achieve. In the absence of such a contract the agent leaves themselves open to a claim for negligence without recourse against those that were actually at fault.
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